Who's Who On Staff
Who’s Who of Special Education Staff at Armstrong
Mary Turner- Campus Coordinator
Mary joined the Armstrong team in 2016 as campus coordinator and has 20 years of experience in special education as a teacher, educational diagnostician, and coordinator. She served students with special needs in Lewisville ISD and Frisco ISD before joining the team at Armstrong. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Texas State University and a master’s degree from Texas Woman’s University. Mary later earned principal certification through work at Lamar University. She is knowledgeable and experienced in the evaluation process for students with learning differences, and has a passion for working with families and teachers to develop individualized plans to support various learning needs. Mary believes all children can and want to learn and enjoys collaborating with others to help all students reach their full potential.
Jessica Irick - Resource Teacher
Jessica grew up in Derby, Kansas and joins the Armstrong team with 17 years experience in education. Before joining the HPISD, Jessica worked in Wichita ISD (Kansas), a charter school based in Lewisville, and Grapevine-Colleyville ISD. She attended Kansas State University and earned a masters in educational leadership at Lamar University. Jessica is a proud mom of three Bradfield Broncos. Outside of school, Jessica enjoys running, hiking, and involvement in her church.
Madeleine Restrepo - Resource Teacher
Madeleine grew up as an Armstrong Eagle, graduating from Highland Park High School, before studying education at the University of Arkansas. Madeleine then earned her master's degree in special education at Vanderbilt University. Madeleine joins the Armstrong team with experience in both general and special education. Outside of school, Madeleine enjoys running, being outside, cooking, and spending time with her family. She is also a certified yoga instructor.
Catherine Fletcher - Fundamentals Teacher
Catherine grew up in Lonoke, Arkansas and is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. She worked in Non-Profit Fundraising & Event Planning with adults with disabilities where she decided to pursue a career in teaching. Catherine joined the team at Armstrong in 2017. Catherine is presently pursuing graduate studies in educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Texas at Arlington. In her spare time, Catherine enjoys being creative and trying new restaurants.
Sarah McWilliams- Structure Teacher
Sarah grew up in Dallas, and is a high school graduate of Highland Park (06’). She went to Baylor University and majored in EC-4 Education. She started working at Armstrong the summer after graduating as an Instructional Assistant in the Fundamentals and Resource classrooms. She then taught First Grade for six years and Kindergarten for two years. In May of 2018 she received her Masters in Early Childhood Special Education with a Focus on Autism from the University of Missouri. She is now in her tenth year at Armstrong as the Structure Teacher. Even though she started her journey as a Bradfield Bronco, she is very proud to be an Armstrong Eagle and to work in the district that taught her so much.
Michael Aguirre - Instructional Assistant
Michael is excited to join the Armstrong Elementary special education team in 2018. This year will be Michael's fourth year in HPISD and his thirteenth year working with exceptional students. Michael was born and raised in far west Texas, El Paso, where he completed his undergraduate work at the University of Texas at El Paso. GO MINERS! Michael is actively pursuing his Master's degree in Special Education from Grand Canyon University with plans to graduate early next year. He brings experience and passion in making a difference in the lives of our exceptional students who will benefit from instruction in the areas of language/communication, socialization skills, behavior, independence, and academic skills. Michael is thrilled to be an Armstrong Eagle!
Susanne Aills- Instructional Assistant
Susanne grew up in Germany where she graduated with a degree in Business Administration in 1978. She moved to Texas with her husband and son in 1994 after her husband retired from the United States Air Force. Susanne came to Armstrong Elementary from Mesquite ISD where she worked as a Special Education Instructional Assistant in an elementary school. Prior to becoming a Special Education Instructional Assistant, she taught foreign language studies at the Fulton School in Rockwall and worked as a substitute teacher for Mesquite ISD. In her free time, Susanne enjoys baking and cooking as well as spending time with her family.
Contrenia Jefferson- Instructional Assistant
Contrenia grew up in Jackson, Mississippi and later lived in New Orleans. She worked as a Special Education Paraprofessional and Activity Specialist in Plano ISD from 2005 to 2015. Contrenia graduated from Texas A&M Commerce with a Bachelor’s of Science in Global Learning. Contrenia earned a master's degree in autism spectrum disorders from Grand Canyon University in October 2017. She has a great passion for serving students with special needs. Contrenia joined the Armstrong team in 2015.
Kari Jones- Instructional Assistant
Kari grew up in Georgetown, Texas. She attended Texas Tech University where she earned a degree in Public Relations. Following 17 years as a flight attendant for Delta Airlines, she spent her time at home raising her son. In past years, she spent much of her time volunteering as a parent at Armstrong and was honored to serve as a chair on the PTA. Kari began her career in HPISD as a substitute teacher in 2009, working in the Resource and LIFT classes at Armstrong. She became an Instructional Assistant in the LIFT program in 2011. She enjoys spending time with her family and being part of the HPISD community both as a parent and an assistant.
Alyssa Sloan- Instructional Assistant
Alyssa grew up in Mesquite, graduating from Poteet High School. While there, she volunteered with children with special needs and lettered in two varsity sports. After high school, Alyssa moved to California and later North Carolina. Alyssa pursued a career as a make-up artist and esthetician for 8 years before deciding to follow her true passion of working with children with learning differences. She is currently pursuing her education degree at Texas A&M Commerce, in hopes to lead a classroom of her own one day. In her spare time, Alyssa enjoys traveling, hiking, spending time with friends and family, and most of all, loving on her sweet dog Bella!
Shamela Thompson- Instructional Assistant
Shamela grew up in Garland Texas, where she graduated from high school in 2005. She promptly began her career in education as an early preschool assistant. Shamela joined the HPISD family in 2011 when she worked with students in the Life Skills/Transition class at Highland Park High School. Shamela brings to our team more than 10 years of experience working with children with special needs. Shamela is currently working on her degree in behavioral science at the University of Phoenix. When not studying or spending time with family, Shamela volunteers with Best Buddies, Special Olympics, Habitat for Humanity and the Make a Wish Foundation of North Texas.
Patricia Wadhams- Instructional Assistant
Pat grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee and was involved in a theater group for children during her middle school years. She graduated from nursing school from St. Mary’s and worked as a pediatric nurse at University of Tennessee Memorial Research Center and Hospital. She has four children and was an HPISD parent. Pat has been an Instructional Assistant in the LIFT program at Armstrong for 16 years. She has 5 grandchildren and is an animal lover. Pat makes sock bunnies for the children's program at Hope Supply Co. in her spare time.
Laura Walker- Speech-Language Pathologist
Laura grew up in Waco, Texas and received a Bachelor of Business Administration in International Business and Marketing from Baylor University in 2005. After working in business for six years, she went back to school to become a Speech-Language Pathologist. Laura received a Master of Science in Communication Disorders from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2013. As a Speech Therapy Intern at Hyer Elementary in 2012, Laura gained experience in the school district and the Fundamentals classrooms. She joined the Armstrong Team in 2013. Laura brings her love of education and enthusiasm for children with special needs to Armstrong.
Julie Kilgore- Occupational Therapist
Julie graduated from Texas Woman’s University in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy and received a Master of Arts degree from Texas Woman’s University in Occupational Therapy in 2000. She has been working for Highland Park ISD since 1994 and has also worked for Medical City Dallas Hospital, Integrative Pediatrics, SPOTS, and The University Texas, Dallas campus, CARE summer program. She is a member of Highland Park’s Assistive Technology team. Julie is married and has two children that keep life very exciting. She spends her weekends with her family and at her children’s sporting events.
Lydia Boudreaux- Physical Therapist
Lydia received her degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Oklahoma in 1990. She worked with adults with brain injuries and other neurological injuries, orthopedic injuries, cardiac patients, and in wound care until finally coming to Highland Park more than 15 years ago. Since then, she has worked exclusively with the pediatric population. She continues to work in a clinic specializing in Sensory Integration based interventions and has an additional certification for evaluation and treatment of this population (SIPT). Lydia also received additional training in Cranial Sacral therapy.
Jennifer Garrison – Adapted Physical Education (APE), Specialist
Jennifer grew up in Copperas Cove, Texas and has been teaching APE since 2001. She earned her Bachelor of Science in Exercise and Sport Studies from Texas Wesleyan University in 2000 while attending on a basketball scholarship. She earned her Master of Science in APE from Texas Woman’s University in 2004. Jennifer initially began her Highland Park career in 2004 through 2007 as the district’s APE specialist before moving on to Region 10 Education Service Center as an APE Consultant for the past six years. She is extremely excited to be back at HPISD and working closely with students with special needs, the staff and parents. In her spare time, she is heavily involved with volunteering for Special Olympics Texas in leadership roles for softball, basketball, and athletics and officiating goal ball which is a sport for blind and visually impaired individuals. She is also one of the founding group of individuals that started the annual Kid-netic Games held at St. Mark’s School of Texas, which is a multi-sporting event for school-aged children with physical impairments. Jennifer also loves life with her boy/girl twins that were born in June of 2013.
Darlene Grillot- Music Therapist
Darlene is a board-certified music therapist, who has been practicing music therapy for over five years. She has worked with various populations throughout her career including children-adults with special needs; Geriatrics; Hospice; Autism; Traumatic Brain Injury; Deaf Education; and other health impairments. Darlene has also performed in various musicals, operas, and country music venues including The South Texas Opry, The Johnnie High Country Music Revue, and Carnegie Hall.
Rachel Funderburg- Educational Diagnostician
Rachel is the Educational Diagnostician at Armstrong and Bradfield Elementary. She received her Bachelor’s in Science of Education degree from Baylor University in May 2004. She is certified to teach 1st through 8th grades in the General Education setting and Early Childhood through 12th grade in the Special Education setting. Mrs. Funderburg taught for four years as a special education teacher before starting her career as an Educational Diagnostician. She became a diagnostician in 2008 and came to HPISD in 2013.
Jennifer Farley- Licensed Specialist in School Psychologist
Jennifer grew up all over as her father was in the Air Force. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from the University of Texas at Dallas in 2004. She was a special education teacher for six years before ultimately becoming an LSSP. Jennifer's practicum and internship years were spent in Community ISD. In 2014, Jennifer graduated from Texas A & M-Commerce with a Specialist in School Psychology degree. She served as the NASP (National Association of School Psychologists) Vice President student leader during graduate school and received her NCSP (Nationally Certified School Psychologist) license in 2014. Previously, Jennifer has served as the lead evaluator, autism team leader, and in-home training coordinator. Her professional development/research focus has been on crisis intervention in public schools. Jennifer joined HPISD in 2015.